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Sinn Féin health spokesperson Deputy Louise O’Reilly has said the unfairness of the further perpetuation of pay inequality in the new Public-Private Hospital Agreement is not lost on public hospital consultants.

Speaking this morning, Teachta O’Reilly said:

“Yesterday some of the detail of the new Public-Private Hospital Agreement between the government and the private hospitals association became known publicly.

“One of the stand out details of the agreement appears to be the further perpetuation of unequal pay within the public health system.

“It appears that private consultants from the private hospital network will be paid more than some existing HSE consultants, namely, new entrant consultants who joined the public health service post-2012.

“While we need all the staff and resources we can get in the fight against COVID-19, the mechanisms in this new deal are quite insulting to staff in the Public Health Service who, for nearly a decade, have been told to wait for pay equality.

“This situation further perpetuates the feeling amongst many of our public hospital consultants that their dedication and hard work to the public system is not valued. Indeed, it is continually cited as the reason behind the nearly 500 vacant consultant posts in the public health service.

“Our public HSE consultants have kept the health service going for years in the face of understaffing, budget cuts, and increased demand and have been the frontline so far in the fight against COVID-19.

“The Unfairness in the new Public-Private Hospital Agreement announced yesterday is not lost on those hospital consultants loyal to the Public Health Service. 

“Furthermore, the government needs to release full details of the cost per day of this private hospital deal.  While an Taoiseach advised that the full cost won’t be known because the duration of the crisis isn’t known, the daily rate should be known and published now. This further undermines the need for the accountability and oversight of Dáil which should continue to sit through this crisis.”


Sinn Féin MP Paul Maskey has called on the Department of Health to issue clear guidelines to undertakers during the COVID-19 crisis. 

The west Belfast MP said: 

"I have been contacted by a number of undertakers who are very concerned about the COVID-19 crisis and have asked the Department of Health for advice. 

"In particular, they have asked for guidelines on handling the bodies of people who have died from the virus and the measures and precautions they should be putting in place, both for their own staff and for grieving relatives. 

"To date, they have not received any clear guidelines. 

"It is vital that the Department of Health works with undertakers so this vital service can be carried out with dignity and respect while at the same time ensuring the safety of workers and the general public."


Sinn Féin’s Niall Ó Donnghaile has this evening contacted the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney seeking urgent financial assistance for those Irish citizens overseas trying to return home as a result of the Covid19 crisis. 

Speaking today, Ó Donnghaile said;

“For several days now, I have been working with many Irish citizens abroad who are trying to get home from places like Australia, New Zealand, Peru and elsewhere.

“I want to thank Embassy/Consulate staffs around the world for their invaluable help. While there are many still trying to travel, I would also like to commend Irish officials internationally for securing flights home for a number of people in the course of the last few days. 

“The reality is that many who are actively trying to return home from abroad face a very uncertain process - particularly those who are holidaying/travelling, or those whose visa arrangements mean they cannot avail of social security/benefits where they currently are. This is particularly evidenced in places like Australia and New Zealand.

“As many people are understandably rushing to get home, they have booked expensive flights in the hope of doing so, only for those flights to be cancelled suddenly. The reality is they now have very limited financial resources to rely upon in a time of existing anxiety, stress and uncertainty.

“I have dealt with a number of cases where people have been forced to bring the leases on their homes to an end and even sell what little possessions, they had gathered up in to help pay for flights that have subsequently been cancelled.

“The main priority should be to get these people home; but as people’s funds run lower, I believe the Irish Government should look at an emergency fund that impacted citizens could avail of to purchase necessities and see them through until they can access a flight home. It likely makes most sense to deliver this through our existing consular structures if possible.

 “Due to the numerous cancellations of flights and the complexities around insurance at an already difficult and distressing time, this fund should also extend to supporting them in purchasing urgent flights home where they are available. 

“I have urged the Government to actively pursue this as an urgent and necessary initiative. 

“Like many other representatives who have been dealing with people desperately trying to get home, I know it would go some considerable way in practically assisting them, as well as massively reassuring their families here at home.”


Sinn Féin MLA Caoimhe Archibald has welcomed news that main internet providers have removed data caps on fixed-line broadband during the coronavirus pandemic.

The party’s economy spokesperson said:

“News that the main internet providers have removed data caps on fixed-line broadband during the coronavirus pandemic is very welcome.

"With people self-isolating and many working from home, they will undoubtedly be using more data.

"It is also welcome that providers have committed to 'fairly and appropriately' supporting customers who have trouble paying their bills.

“These moves will help support and protect vulnerable customers, including older people and enable them to remain connected during this public health crisis.”


Sinn Féin MLA Órlaithí Flynn has welcomed the inclusion of a dedicated mental health section on the COVID-19 information portal. 

The Sinn Féin mental health spokesperson said: 

"I have been contacted by many who found the online advice and portal useful but were concerned that it had no information on mental health.

"I contacted officials to call for a dedicated section which would provide information on helplines, useful numbers/websites, advice and some general reassurance given that we are all feeling increased levels of anxiety during this time. 

“I received confirmation from officials that work has started right away to develop this.

“It is important at a time when we are rightly thinking of our physical health and wellbeing we don’t neglect the value of our mental health.” 


Sinn Féin Senator Máire Devine has said the Minister for Health Simon Harris must not abdicate responsibility for construction workers during the COVID-19 pandemic and called on him to clarify whether construction workers at the National Children's Hospital in Dublin South Central and at the Intel site in Kildare, after workers and community groups have raised serious concerns for their health and well-being amid the current crisis.

Senator Devine said;

"Over the past number of weeks numerous construction workers and residents adjacent to the National Children's Hospital have raised concerns with me over work still going ahead despite there being a public health emergency in full effect.

"We have repeatedly asked the relevant authorities if the site would be closed, but have yet to receive any confirmation for this specific site.

"Alarmed residents had been in contact with BAM, but they are getting conflicting messages and BAM are continuing with the work as planned.

"Major concerns have been raised not only by these workers and their families, but also by local residents in terms of workers not being able to keep with social etiquette and health guidelines issued with crowds of construction workers in shops, take-aways and on the streets.

"These companies have interpreted Government policy in such a way that they are essential, but the criteria does not actually specify this.

"In his latest briefing the Minister tried to pass the buck on this issue saying it is the responsibility of individual companies or employers to decide the fate of their workers. This is wrong and should not be the case.

"Similarly, Intel in Leixlip had put up signage to say it was closed but has since continued to remain operational.

"I am once again calling on Minister Simon Harris to urgently clarify matters relating to this. He cannot leave these people behind in the worst public health emergency in modern history. Workers and communities need to hear whether these large-scale sites are going to be wound down for the duration of the pandemic."


Sinn Fein Party Group Leader on Belfast City Council Ciaran Beattie has called on council not to enforce restricted opening hours for stores on Sundays and for stores to make specific arrangements for healthcare workers, pensioners and the people with disabilities to access shops.


Speaking on the proposal, Cllr Beattie said:

“I have received numerous correspondence from healthcare workers, pensioners and people with disabilities regarding limited access to food and essentials due to panic buying.


“We have seen many images on social media of healthcare workers, pensioners and the disabled straddling emptied aisles in supermarkets


“This is a time of much concern and uncertainty for many citizens - it is my firm view that we must do all that we can to ensure that no one goes hungry and without essentials.


“Whether this be because they are working back-to-back shifts on the frontline or due to limited accessibility.


“I am calling on Belfast City Council to immediately cease enforcing restricted opening hours while this public health emergency continues and for stores to make specific arrangements for those struggling to access food and essentials."


Sinn Féin MP Paul Maskey has called on facilities in West Belfast to be opened for healthcare workers.

Speaking, the West Belfast MP said:


“I have been working closely with our North Belfast MLA Carál Ní Chuilín and the Belfast Health Trust to address some of the needs and concerns of our healthcare workers.


“Some concerns that have been raised include a lack of parking, showers and changing facilities in hospitals.


“Following these conversations, I have been in close contact with local institutions regarding the potential to open premises to provide free car parking, showers and changing facilities for healthcare workers.


“I have also been in contact with a local hotel and conversations are currently ongoing about the provision of free accommodation for healthcare workers travelling to work from outside of Belfast.


“Our health workers are on the frontline; they are working tirelessly to protect people from COVID19. They deserve nothing less than our absolute support.”


A commitment to prioritise Covid-19 testing for staff at a Derry care home is a step in the right direction but more must be done to protect workers and residents, Sinn Féin MLA Martina Anderson has said.

The Foyle MLA was commenting after challenging the Department of Health over the level of protections at Owen Mor Care Home where it has been confirmed that six residents have tested positive for Covid-19.

Martina Anderson said: “The Department of Health has confirmed to me that priority access to the local Covid-19 testing centre will be afforded to Owen Mor staff who are showing symptoms.

“Additional personal protective equipment (PPE) has also been made available and while these are steps in the right direction, it should not have taken a lobby to make them happen.

“It also remains the case that every possible step must be taken to protect the residents and staff, not just at Owen Mor but at all care homes.

“Testing needs to be much more widespread if we are to effectively fight this virus.

“It’s also outrageous that front line health care workers providing invaluable care for patients in local communities are being left to feel that they are not being supported and protected.

“Residential homes and domiciliary care providers are front line health-care workers and should be properly protected in terms of PPE and testing, particularly as physical distancing isn’t possible when caring for patients.”

NOTES TO EDITORS: Attached is a copy of the correspondence sent to Martina Anderson MLA in response to her concerns.


Sinn Féin TD for Donegal Pádraig Mac Lochlainn has called on the Minister for Social Protection to ensure that all workers on the island who have paid their taxes and social insurance in the State are paid the Covid-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment.

Currently the payment is being denied to workers who are resident in the north of Ireland.

Teachta Mac Lochlainn said: 

"It is unfair and unjust that so many workers in Donegal and across the State - who have paid their taxes and social insurance like everyone else - are not able to access the Covid-19 Pandemic Unemployment Benefit of €350 per week because they are resident in the north.

"They are being asked to apply for Universal Credit in the 6 Counties and this is causing serious economic hardship for these workers and their families.  

"My party colleagues and I raised this issue with the Minister for Social Protection and her officials over a week ago, and in recent days Mary Lou McDonald has written to Minister Regina Doherty appealing for this payment to be made available to all workers resident on the island.

"This is an exceptional and emergency payment and it should be paid to all workers on an equal basis."


Sinn Féin deputy Dáil leader Pearse Doherty TD has said this afternoon that it is 'absolutely vital' that the Dáil continues to sit throughout Covid-19 crisis, including this week and over the Easter period.

Teachta Doherty said: "At a time when we are asking everything of frontline health workers and other workers in essential roles, it is incomprehensible that political accountability and scrutiny would take a back seat at this time. It is absolutely vital that the Dáil continues to sit throughout this crisis and show leadership."

He continued:

"In the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, it is critical that everything that can be done is done to ensure that people are safe and that all measures are put in place to protect workers and families at this time.

"The Dáil has met twice in as many weeks to pass emergency legislation required to deal with the crisis and it is vital that it continues to sit at this time. We have raised this matter today with the Ceann Comhairle. 

"There are very serious issues that require political oversight and accountability - including issues relating to income supports, jobs, banking, insurance and capacity in the health service; including the availability of PPE.

"This is particularly pertinent at a time when the current government derives its mandate from the previous Dáil and is operating in a caretaker role.

"Understandably, we will need to work within the parameters of public health restrictions that are required to protect both TDs and the staff of the Houses of the Oireachtas, but there is a lot of work to do and it is imperative that the democratic process - at a time of national emergency - is upheld."


Sinn Féin spokesperson on Housing Eoin Ó Broin TD has called on the Minister for Social Protection to provide clarity to renters in relation to accessing an emergency rent supplement payment if they are experiencing difficulties paying their rent due to Covid-19. With rents due this week the issue is now urgent.

Deputy Ó Broin said:

“For weeks, I have been calling on the Minister for Social Protection Regina Doherty to introduce an emergency Covid-19 rent supplement payment for renters who have lost their jobs.

“I have written to her again today asking her to confirm that her Department is working on such as scheme and urging her to announce it as a matter of urgency.

“This week, most people will have to pay their rent and I am getting dozens of queries from concerned renters as to how they are meet to meet these costs after losing work.

“What renters need now is reassurance and clarity from the Minister that accessing this payment is an option for those struggling with rental costs.

“If the Minister does not act to support renters now, then we will be facing a massive rent arrears debt crisis when the Covid-19 restrictions are lifted with terrible consequences for renters, the rental sector and the economy.”


Sinn Féin TD for Dublin Mid West Mark Ward, who had previously called for the suspension of NCT centres during the COVID-19 outbreak is now calling on the Minister for Transport to confirm that no penalty points will be issued to drivers whose tests have been cancelled.

Deputy Ward said:

“I have had a number of people contact me over the weekend who had an NCT test cancelled after the NCT centres closed during the latest announcement of restrictions. They have concerns and questions about can they still drive their car and will the be punished for doing so.

“Some of these people are working in essential services themselves and either need their car for work or feel more safe in their car as it is difficult to social distance on public transport.

“I had previously contacted Minister Ross' office calling on the suspension of NCTs after a number of staff and customers contacted me with concerns.

“The current penalty for driving without a valid NCT certificate is a fine of up to €2,000, and or up to 5 penalty points and or imprisonment for up to 3 months.

“I have contacted Minister Ross requesting he issue a statement clarifying that drivers who had an NCT test scheduled, that has since been cancelled will not be penalised and receive any fines or penalty points.

“This will give people some much needed peace of mind in these very uncertain times."


Sinn Fein Party Group Leader on Belfast City Council Ciaran Beattie has called on council not to enforce restricted opening hours for stores on Sundays and for stores to make specific arrangements for healthcare workers, pensioners and the people with disabilities to access shops.


Speaking on the proposal, Cllr Beattie said:

“I have received numerous correspondence from healthcare workers, pensioners and people with disabilities regarding limited access to food and essentials due to panic buying.


“We have seen many images on social media of healthcare workers, pensioners and the disabled straddling emptied aisles in supermarkets


“This is a time of much concern and uncertainty for many citizens - it is my firm view that we must do all that we can to ensure that no one goes hungry and without essentials.


“Whether this be because they are working back-to-back shifts on the frontline or due to limited accessibility.


“I am calling on Belfast City Council to immediately cease enforcing restricted opening hours while this public health emergency continues and for stores to make specific arrangements for those struggling to access food and essentials."


Sinn Féin councillor and Mayor of Belfast Councillor Daniel Baker has thanked the Mayor of Shenyang and the Chinese Consulate in Belfast for a generous donation of Personal Protective Equipment.

Speaking today, Mayor Baker said:

“Today we received correspondence from Mayor Jiang Youwei and the Consul General of China in Belfast Zhang Meifang extending solidarity from the people of Shenyang to the people of Belfast and Ireland as we fight back against COVID19.

“The Mayor of Shenyang has also very kindly made a donation of 10,000 disposable medical masks and 500 sets of protective clothing.

“I will be making arrangements for this equipment to be distributed urgently to our frontline healthcare workers upon arriving in Belfast.

“This is a global fight back against a horrific disease.

“This disease knows no boundaries or borders. All citizens of the world must stand united and firm.

“From the people of Belfast I want to thank Mayor Youwei and Consul General Zhang. Go raibh maith agaibh.”


Louise OR' ReillySinn Féin health spokesperson Louise O’Reilly has called on the government to secure a domestic production line of COVID-19 testing kits as a chronic shortage has meant that the Páirc Uí Chaoimh testing centre in Cork had to stop testing today.

Teachta O’Reilly said: “The news today that the testing site at Páirc Uí Chaoimh had to stop testing due to a lack of COVID-19 testing kits is extremely worrying.

"Last week, we had changes to testing criteria which meant that thousands of people who were previously scheduled for a test were told they would now not be tested.

"It was suggested at the time that the change was announced because of a shortage of testing kits - it now appears that this is in fact the case.

"The World Health Organisation have been clear in their advice that states must "test, test, test".

"Indeed, one of the most important factors contributing to low death rates in Germany appears to be that it is testing far more people than any other European country.

"In order to test as many people as possible and find out the true scale of the virus is across the State, then we must have enough testing kits.

"In conjunction with the lack of necessary PPE for frontline workers, this latest development raises serious questions and underlines the need to ensure we have a domestic supply of COVID-19 testing kits.

"Across Ireland, we have some of the foremost medical device companies in the world as well as some fantastic and ingenuitive domestic medical companies.

"The government and the HSE must liaise with these companies and deliver a domestic supply line of testing kits.

"We cannot continue to leave hostages to fortune and rely on imports from other countries, especially as there are disturbing reports in recent days that some countries are hijacking supplies of PPE and equipment if delivery planes stop over at their airports.

"It is reported that Abbott Laboratories, who employ around 3,000 people across nine sites in Ireland, plan to manufacture 50,000 Coronavirus testing kits for the United States that can tell if someone is infected in as little as five minutes, and is so small and portable it can be used in almost any healthcare setting.

"Similarly, Randox in Antrim produce a test which uses bio-chip array technology to identify COVID-19 and differentiate it from nine other respiratory infections.

"I would implore the government to reach out to all possible medical devices companies in Ireland - big and small - and work with them to guarantee a domestic supply of testing kits.

"Without them, we are blind in this battle."


Sinn Féin spokesperson on Education Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire TD has called on the Minister for Education to work with the Minister for Social Protection to ensure flexibility for school staff paid through the Ancillary Services Grant.

He said:

“Many school staff; including many secretaries, bus helpers, caretakers and others are paid through the Ancillary Services Grant.

“I have been advised that these staff members are to be paid as normal while schools are closed, but also that the ordinary procedure during the Easter break will apply - this involves signing on for the Easter period, which usually involves staff getting a form signed by the school and dropping it to an Intreo office.

“When you multiply that by thousands of schools, this is a lot of potential contact at a time when we are all meant to be minimising travel arrangements and I am urging the Ministers involved to ensure a better arrangement is reached.

“Either these staff members continue to be paid directly in some form by the Department of Education, or they can be facilitated by Intreo ringing the School Principal to confirm that they are working in the school.

“I have contacted the Department of Education to ask them to engage with the Department of Social Protection to rectify this issue.”


Speaking this morning, Sinn Féin spokesperson on Health Louise O’Reilly TD has called on the government to allow free travel on public transport for all healthcare workers for the duration of the Covid-19 crisis.

Teachta O’Reilly said:

“Some States have decided to recognise the vital work of their frontline health workers in response to Covid-19 by introducing free public transport for these workers during the crisis.

“Many frontline health staff travel to work daily by train and bus, and this small gesture would help demonstrate our respect and gratitude at this difficult and unprecedented time.

“Our healthcare staff are working tirelessly day and night in the fight against this virus and anything that makes their daily lives easier should be considered.

 “I have written to the Minister for Health to see if he can raise the introduction of this measure with the Department of Transport and the National Transport Authority. 

“I have also placed on record with the Minister our view that the decision to reduce public transport services must not jeopardise social and physical distancing efforts and put the safety of passengers and workers at risk.”


Sinn Féin MLA Martina Anderson has said urgent action is needed to ensure the health of residents and staff at a care centre in Derry. 

The Foyle MLA said: 

"I am deeply concerned that a number of patients in a care centre in Derry have been confirmed to be suffering from COVID-19.

“My first thoughts are with the families and the loved ones of those directly affected by this deeply distressing news. 

"Families of residents at the care centre are now concerned that there could be other cases in the home and are worried about their loved ones. 

"The Department of Health, the RQIA and management at the care centre need to act fast to ensure the health and safety of all residents and staff, including testing for front line staff at the home. 

"In particular, staff and residents should urgently be provided with adequate Personal Protective Equipment and, if necessary, moved to a safe location for further care. 

"There is a need to act quickly in order to prevent any further tragedy."


Sinn Féin Councillor Danny Baker has condemned those responsible for leaving a pipe bomb in the Lagmore area of West Belfast in the early hours of the morning.

Cllr Baker said:

"Earlier this morning a suspect device was left at a house in the Lagmore area.

"The area was sealed off while the device was dealt with.

"This was a senseless act and shows little regard for the community, our key workers, emergency services and health workers.

“I appeal for anyone on any information to bring it forward to the PSNI.

“These reckless actions are in stark contrast to the efforts of workers carrying out essential work.

“Those responsible offer nothing only disrupting the efforts of our emergency services to help those in most need at this time of crisis.

"Our key workers are already under immense pressure as they work whilst the rest of us remain home in our battle against COVID-19.”

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